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Working as a Translator or Interpreter [NOC 5125]

Job Description

Translators convert written material from one language into another.

As a translator you perform the following duties:

  • Translate a variety of written materials
  • Maintain the content and style of the original material
  • Adapt technical documents to another language and culture
  • Research subject matter and terms
  • Proofread and edit translated materials
  • Meet with clients and supervisors
  • May specialize in a particular subject

Interpreters translate spoken words from one language into another.

As an interpreter you perform the following duties:

  • Listen to speakers’ words
  • Translate statements for audiences
  • Simultaneous interpreters translate while someone speaks
  • Consecutive interpreters translate during pauses in a speech
  • May interpret for individuals and small groups travelling in Canada and abroad
  • May specialize in conference, court, medical, or other types if interpretation
  • May train other interpreters

Industry Overview

Translators and interpreters usually specialize in two languages, including one of the official languages of Canada (English or French). In British Columbia, you may have an advantage in the job market if you are fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese or Punjabi. There is also a growing demand for interpreters and translators who are fluent in Spanish.

For translators, most demand is for technical materials. Employment prospects are good if you are familiar with the following subjects:

  • scientific and technical fields
  • law
  • biology
  • pharmacy

Most jobs are in large urban centres such as Metro Vancouver or Victoria.

Job Outlook in BC

Translators and Interpreters (NOC 5125)

translators and interpreters (NOC 5125)

Chart from: WorkBC

The Employment Outlook for BC provides job openings projections for translators and interpreters within BC regions:

Region 2010
Estimated Employment
2015
Estimated Employment
Avg Annual % Change, 5 Years, 2010-2015
Vancouver Island 130 130 0.5%
Lower Mainland/Southwest 1,160 1,290 2.2%
Thompson-Okanagan 70 70 0.2%
Kootenay 10 20 2.9%
Cariboo 20 20 0.4%
North Coast & Nechako 10 10 0.3%
Northeast 10 10 1.2%

Source: Regional Employment Projections, BC Stats. Projections for development regions [accessed October 2014]

You can learn more about working as a translator or interpreter from:

Types of Employers

Translators work for any organization that needs translation of written materials including:

  • private translation agencies
  • government departments
  • multinational corporations
  • publishing houses

Interpreters work for:

  • government
  • large corporations
  • courts
  • conference centres
  • the media
  • international organizations such as the United Nations

You may work as an independent freelancer, contracting your services to more than one organization.

Salary

In BC the average salary for translators and interpreters is between $44,000 and $53,000 a year. Your income depends on certification, experience, education, and type of employer. Earnings also depend on the languages you speak and the subject matter being discussed.

If you work on a freelance basis you usually earn an hourly or daily rate. Hourly wages can range from about $15 to $40, although some can make $50 or more an hour.

Job Bank Canada, Wage Reports, provides hourly wages for translators and interpreters in the Lower Mainland:

The federal government publishes the salary ranges for translators from its most recent collective agreement. 2013 salaries with the federal public service ranged from $ 51,612 to a maximum of $ 105,813.
Sources: Job Bank Canada, Wages ReportCareer Cruising database (Profiles for Translator & for Interpreter)

Working Hours

Translators: If you are employed by large companies or the government you generally work regular 7 to 8 hour days, 5 days a week. In rare circumstances you may be asked to work evenings or weekends to deal with unexpected events. As a freelance translator, you schedule your own work. This can vary depending on the demand for your services.

The hours for salaried interpreters are often long and irregular. If you work on a freelance basis and are able to find clients, you can work as much or as little as you want.

Skills, Education and Experience

Skills for Translators

  • excellent language skills
  • good attention to detail
  • ability to concentrate and perform well under pressure
  • proven writing skills
  • extensive intellectual curiosity
  • significant use of memory
  • maintains high standard of professional performance
  • good computer skills

Skills for Interpreters

  • excellent language skills
  • excellent listener
  • ability to communicate ideas
  • good attention to detail
  • maintains high standard of professional performance
  • good interpersonal skills
  • a good memory
  • able to concentrate and think fast

Education and Experience

Most employers require:

  • University degree in translation with a specialization in translation or interpretation in two languages (including at least one of the two official languages)
    OR
  • University degree in a related discipline such as languages or linguistics and two years’ experience as a full-time translator
    OR
  • Five years of experience as a full-time translator working in two languages, at least one of which is an official language

If you work in an international context, fluency in three languages is usually required.

Qualifications

This occupation is not regulated in British Columbia. There are no mandatory requirements for licensing or professional certification in order to work as a translator or interpreter in BC.

However, you cannot use certain titles, including “Certified Translator” or “Certified Interpreter” unless you have passed a certification examination through the Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia. Further information about certification is available at:

Finding Jobs

You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers and electronic sources, as well as through professional associations’ publications.

Local Newspapers

You can look at the Vancouver Sun & The Province at Vancouver Public Library for free. Check the job postings daily, the careers section in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesdays and Saturdays and, in The Province on Sundays.

Job White Pages

  • Available online or in print at the Central Library
    NOTE: You can only access this database from the Central Library or VPL branch libraries. Access is NOT available from home or outside the Library.

Online Job Postings

  • Federal Government of Canada
    Select “British Columbia” for Province/Territory, and enter the keyword “translator” or “interpreter”. Note that interpreter is also used by the Parks Canada for people who give heritage tours at natural and historical sites.
  • Indeed.com
    Find jobs posted on a multitude of company career sites and job boards

Professional Associations’ Career Resources

  • Find a Certified Translator at STIBC website
    Many translators are self-employed or work on a contract basis. STIBC lists certified translators in this database so that employers can locate professionals for work.

Identifying the Right Position

When you browse job advertisements, you’ll find different job titles.

For translators and interpreters, look for these related job titles:

  • Conference Interpreter
  • Court Interpreter
  • Literary Translator
  • Simultaneous Interpreter
  • Technical Translator
  • Translator, Technical Documents

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of employers who employ translators in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.

  • Reference Canada
    Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
    Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
    In the top search box enter “translator” and click LOOKUP.
    Select the appropriate headings.
    Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
    NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).

Applying for a Job

In Canada, employers usually expect to receive a resume (curriculum vitae) and a cover letter that identifies the position you are applying for and summarizes your relevant experience.

Use the library catalogue to find books on writing resumes and cover letters specific to your industry.

To learn about applying for jobs in Canada, use the following guides which are available in print at the Central Library or online:

Getting Help from Industry Sources

Industry Associations

Associations for translators and interpreters in BC and Canada can provide you with information and assistance. Registration and fees may be required for membership.

Industry Journals

Search the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for journals related to your profession.

Examples include:

  • The TRANSLetter
    Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia